Eat fresh in Japan: Subway in the land of awful sandwiches

Sure, there are sandwiches in Japan…but they aren’t very good.  The most common sandwich found at your local convenience store is a ham sandwich with too much mayonnaise and limp lettuce sandwiched between two whiter than white pieces of bread.  Another conbini favorite is egg salad…again with too much mayonnaise and white bread.

When you can easily pick up an onigiri (rice ball) in a miriade of flavors, why go for a subpar sandwich.  The only option to satisfying our cravings for a sandwich has been to 1) make it ourselves or 2) trek all the way to the nearest Subway.

And trek we did.  After a 2.5 hour boat ride, 1 hour bus ride, 1 hour train ride, and 5 min taxi ride, we had arrived.  In the inaka (rural area), travel is slow.  This 4.5 hour trip only brought us 80 miles away from our home.

When we arrived to Subway, the first thing I noticed was the variety of sauces the offered.  I was expecting the plain sauces of American Subway.  You know, mayo, mustard, ranch, maybe even honey mustard.  But in Japan, Subway offers up some very interesting choices.  Aside from the original oil in vinegar, they had caesar dressing, horseradish sauce, chili tomato sauce, wasabi and soy sauce, basil mayonnaise, balsamico sauce, and plain old mayonnaise.  For cheeses they offer “natural slice cheese,” “cream type cheese,” and mascarpone cheese.

Khoa got a roast beef sandwich with thick cuts of actual beef, not the processed stuff.  It looked so good on the poster, but landed up being quite dry.  The horseradish sauce that accompanied it was delicious, but couldn’t save the moistureless beef.

I thoroughly enjoyed my turkey sandwich topped with the works and pesto mayonnaise.  My favorite sandwich in the entire world is a plain old turkey sandwich, but trying to find one in Japan is a challenge.  I was savoring every salty, gobble-gobble good bite.

My biggest fear was that the bread wasn’t going to be good.  You might remember my cravings for bread that isn’t made of bleached flour in one of my posts a while back.  To my delight, the bread options were the same as in the States and I didn’t hesitate to order my sandwich on honey oat bread.

I wanted some chips to go alongside (or inside!) my sandwich, but Subway in Japan only offers potato wedges.  You have your choice of regular, barbecue, cheese, and basil flavor.  We went for the cheese flavored wedges, and although the taste was good, they weren’t made fresh and had been sitting under the heating lamps for a long time.  Had they been fresh out of the fryer, we would have enjoyed them more.

The process for ordering a sandwich is exactly the same and when asking for all toppings on your sandwich, you still say, “give me ‘the works’.”  Everything from the yellow, green, and white brand colors to the cold cut coolers is the same as in the US.

I’m not a big Subway fan in the US, but being so far from a decent sandwich shop, I’ll take what I can get.  For the two of us, the yellow and green glow of the Subway sign is a beacon of hope in our quest to find a good cold-cut-filled sandwich in Japan.


4 thoughts on “Eat fresh in Japan: Subway in the land of awful sandwiches

  1. charmedbylove September 16, 2012 / 1:17 pm

    wow the sauces really seem to be the making or breaking of the sandwich!

  2. Brent September 16, 2012 / 1:42 pm

    I like how those ‘conbini’ sandwiches put that one slice of paper thin ham and limp lettuce all in middle of that whiter than white bread so that after you take one bite out of the middle, all you’re left with is .. bread!
    (sarcasm included!)
    p.s. subway used to be my savior for a sandwich..! now i just mske my own!
    Nice post!

  3. Max September 23, 2012 / 10:46 am

    Yes, so much of that is true. However I must say they’ve gotten better at making sandwiches since my boat got stranded here in 1984.

    I’m assuming you went to the Subway in Hiroshima? There used to be two, the original near “Parco” on Namiki-dōri closed at the end of August which is a bummer for me as I used to be able to leave my car at the curb long enough to grab an order (one of the few areas the Police are lenient). The new store is in Kamiya-cho and the illegal parking nazis are there in droves.

    Now I drop off my son, who is also a Subway addict, and let him grab the grub while I do laps around the block in the family-hauler.

  4. Lila August 28, 2013 / 9:09 pm


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